By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
She had reasons to remain in Houston that day: a longstanding commitment with her godmother, a friend's major surgery. Rhonda was torn, but she stayed.
She remembers that her husband was disappointed but seemed to understand. He did slip in a few pointed remarks, such as, "Sure wish my wife could be at my book signing."
She'd sent a basket of wine and flowers to Dallas for Kevyn's event. But afterward, he was curt with her on the phone. "At the time I didn't know," she says. "Then his mom told me how bad he was hurt. When that happened, it was a situation where he could never, ever forgive me."
McGruder-Williams still was not prepared when her husband suddenly asked for a divorce.
"We were going through some problems with the commuting, but I really, really had thought that we were getting over that hurdle," she says. "At that point, I would've done anything to save my marriage."
But he was unforgiving. His mind was made up.
It was over.
Rudy V knows how to leave an impression. He's the type of man who's confident enough to shake your hand...and hold on several seconds longer than necessary, without ever blinking an eye. Hours later, you realize that the arresting scent hanging around you is his cologne.
With Rudy V, it seems, there is sometimes a thin line between confidence and egotism. One evening, he reminisces about his aborted career as a pro football player.
"You're talking to a gentleman right now who would not be fantasizing or exaggerating if he said that he could still be playing on Sunday afternoons in the NFL at quarterback," he says. "I was raised to be ready to do something like that."
Later on in the studio parking lot, someone chucks a football his way. He easily makes the catch. Then -- brown eyes quickly scanning the "field" -- he backpedals, draws back an arm, and positions his athletic frame into the perfect QB stance. The football darts like a rocket from his right hand.
The poor, unsuspecting "receiver" lets out an anguished gush of breath as the ball pops into his chest.
Rudy V's eyes follow the ball somewhere beyond the parking lot for a moment. "It still bruises up at the first cold of every winter. It's gets all purple," he says, referring to the hamstring he tore in the Chicago Bruisers' 1987 spring training camp.
The injury ended what he's convinced would have been a great career in professional football. "He was a prototypical quarterback," explains old friend Rodney Clay. "That's how they tag potential prospects. He had the size and a strong arm. And he had the mind."
A guy with the NFL in his future? Well, maybe. A call to Arena Football League headquarters landed at the desk of Mark Malzewski, director of media relations, who, after two days, dug up the tiniest scrap of information. "Yeah, there was a Kevyn Williams with the Chicago Bruisers. He was on the roster, but he didn't play. He didn't have any stats. He was sort of a back-up."
Williams says there's a very good reason why he's not playing football today: "I firmly believe that this is what God wants me to do, because of what it took for me to get here. I had to get fired from UPS. I had to get divorced."
He says he wouldn't change a thing. The experiences, tough as they were, allow him to tap into the pain his listeners are going through. "They need to relive it, and they want you to go there with them," he says.
Williams definitely goes there. He says that one of the hardest things about doing the show is that he gets so emotionally wound up. Sometimes, he'll stay on the phone counseling a caller for up to an hour.
"What a lot of people don't know," says Williams' father, "is that he really, really feels their pain. I think that's going to be the demise of him, to be honest with you.
"A good doctor can lose a patient and go on to the next patient and do a super job, but when Kevyn helps solve a problem, it stays with him. It's still there. He's just not able to drop it."
If songs tell stories, Kevyn Williams can name a few that tell his. "Love Don't Love Nobody," by the Spinners. "Love's in Need of Love Today," by Stevie Wonder. And before you grab for that box of Kleenex, there's "Happy Feelings" by Frankie Beverly and Maze.
Anyone who's familiar with the first two songs knows they paint a melancholy portrait.
Williams says he's taken a beating in this business. People make a lot of assumptions about him. "Entertainers are so often misunderstood," he says with a sour look on his face. "The positive sides of it are so rewarding, but the negativity is atrocious."
One of the more "atrocious" aspects is trying to develop genuine relationships. Women tend to assume he has a harem, but Williams -- and his ex-wife and family members concur -- is not the cheatin' kind.